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prayer Archives - Chaplain | JM Faith at Work

Ways to Pray

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How do you pray?  I imagine that question will bring up many different answers.  People pray in different ways, at different times, and for different purposes.  In this challenging time of stress in our lives, prayer is particularly important.  Here are some of the ways to pray that you may find helpful.

 

  • A conversation with God – Anytime, anywhere, you can close your eyes, open your heart, and have a one-on-one conversation with your God. As you lie in bed at night before you go to sleep is a good time for this conversation.
  • Pray for someone – If you know someone who is in need, physically ill, or struggling emotionally, name them in prayer and ask God to help them in specific ways.
  • Pray with someone – It is particularly helpful to pray with someone taking turns sharing concerns with one another. Due to current restrictions, we can pray together on the phone or on Zoom.
  • Prayers of thanksgiving – Look for the good things in your life and simply say thanks to God in prayer.
  • Prayers of forgiveness – We all do things we regret. God is always there to hear your confession and forgive your sins.  This will help free you from guilt.
  • Prayer as a cry of desperation – Sometimes we are OVERWHELMED with fear, loss, or physical suffering. Don’t be afraid to let it all out and cry out to God for help.
  • Community prayers – Find a community of faith such as a church, synagogue, or mosque and add your voice to the prayers of the people. There is power in numbers.
  • Traditional prayers – Get in the habit of praying the old favorite prayers that you may know by heart such as “The Lord’s Prayer” or table prayers before meals. Even prayers that come up from childhood such as “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” provide comfort.

 

The bottom line is simple – pray whenever and however you like.  God is listening.

 

525,600

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Pastor Jim Melvin

If you have seen the Broadway musical Rent, the number 525,600 may ring a mental bell; it’s the number of minutes in a year. The average life expectancy of an American today is 78 years, a couple of years more if you are a female and a couple of years less if you are unfortunate enough to be a male. Male or female, our minutes are numbered, 41,776,800 to be exact if you live that average 78 years (not counting leap years).

41,776,800 is a big number; but it’s not THAT big a number. It’s way less than a billion. We talk about US budget deficits in billions and trillions of dollars. And as the popular astronomer Carl Sagan used to say with great emphasis, “There are BBBillions and BBBillions of stars in the universe.” Our lives are small and of short duration on a cosmic scale. This life is not infinite. The clock is ticking my friends; our clocks are ticking.

Thinking about this may call your attention to the clock ticking in your chest or even send you into a panic attack. That’s not my intention. To the contrary, I’d just like us to consider the opportunities for living represented by that pile of minutes so that we don’t waste them. Each minute is made more precious by its relative scarcity.

There’s an economics term that I hear my friends in business throwing around all the time, opportunity cost. Simply put, opportunity cost is the value you give up doing one thing when you choose to do something else. For example, when I choose to stay in bed for an extra hour in the morning, I’m giving up the opportunity to make money at work or the opportunity to enjoy an hour taking a walk or going fishing with my child. On the job, my boss might not be so happy to know that spending time playing Candy Crush on my phone is robbing me and him/her of the opportunity to get some work done.

It’s a matter of the choices we make on a minute by minute, day by day basis that will ultimately add up to a life well spent or a life wasted. We shouldn’t be obsessed by this kind of accounting of our lives; I’m don’t want to analyze my life on a spreadsheet. But here are some do’s and don’ts to make healthy choices about how to spend your time.

1) Cut back on screen time. Here’s a statistic that I find shocking. According to a Nielson Company audience report, the average American spends 10 hours and 39 minutes per day peering at some kind of screen consuming media. Although we spend more and more times on our personal devices, television is still the main consumer of our time. Consider the opportunity cost. That’s 10 hours and 39 minutes a day we could spend interacting with our children or spouses. That’s 10 hours and 39 minutes a day we could spend at exercise and healthy recreation. That’s 10 hours and 39 minutes a day we could volunteer to our church or service organization. I might even devote a few of those minutes taking a refreshing nap. In short, turn off the tv, put away the phones and tablets, and spend some time in the real world.

2) Spend more time in prayer, devotion, meditation, and other spiritual pursuits. As opposed to almost eleven hours we spend looking at screens, the average American spends about 8 minutes per day in prayer. (That’s actually a little higher than I expected.) Studies show that people who spend significant amounts of time praying and reading the Bible are healthier and live longer. Try devoting just five minutes to prayer when you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night. See how you feel. Also, maybe try to squeeze in 30 minutes reading the Bible or other devotional material.

3) Engage in meaningful conversations. It says in the Genesis creation story that it’s not good for us to be alone. Most of us would agree that there is nothing more important than our relationships. And yet, we seldom take the time to really talk to one another about important things like our feelings, our hopes and our fears. Sitting down to leisurely meals on a regular basis with the significant people in our lives encourages us to talk. And, of course, don’t bring the phone to the table and don’t watch tv. Just talk and chew.

4) Exercise. The Mayo Clinic says that 300 minutes of moderate exercise per week provides significant health benefits. They say that 150 minutes should be a minimum goal. Just going for brisk walks is good enough. If possible, walk in pleasant and peaceful surroundings. You might even try praying as you walk. Get double benefits for each minute spent in your perambulatory devotions. (No, I didn’t make up that word.)

5) Work hard. When you are on the job, or when you have important tasks to take care of, put your heart and your soul into it. When we are working hard and accomplishing something, we don’t have to worry about the opportunity costs. We are making good use of our time. After all, we have to get things done and make a living. No regrets here.

6) Chill. This is my favorite. Just spend some time doing nothing. I remember a Seinfeld episode where Elaine is sitting on an airplane with a friend. He asks, “What are you doing?” “Nothing,” she replies. “You have to be doing something,” he insists. “No, I’m just staring at the back of the seat.” “Boy, you really are doing nothing,” he finally admits. This may be the hardest one for you type-A people, really doing nothing. Once in a while, don’t worry about the opportunity costs. Just do nothing.

Well, that’s kind of a random list; but I hope you get the idea.

On a personal note, I’m almost 71. Assuming that I make it to 82 (that’s how long my dad and brother lived), I’ve got 5,781,600 minutes left. That’s 60 minutes less than when I sat down to write this. Talk about tick-tock. Here’s the way I’ve decided to game the system. I’m going to live each minute with Psalm 118:24 on my lips or at least in my heart: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Then how can I go wrong.

A Simple Guide to Meditation

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A Simple Guide to Meditation and Relaxation
Pastor Jim Melvin

We all must deal with stress in our lives both at home and at work. Stress is a fact of life. Some stress is good. When we face a challenging situation, our bodies get amped up and ready to perform. I was watching the Packers game the other night and I could see how stressed the players felt as they came back onto the field after half-time trailing 17-0. Stress played a large part in getting the Green and Gold’s adrenaline flowing which allowed them to march up and down the field in the fourth quarter to a victory. That’s good stress. (Although I confess to being a Bears fan.)

How do you think those players felt on Monday morning after that game? In addition to the aches, pains and bruises they had a physical and emotional letdown to deal with. The body can only run on adrenaline for a limited period of time. A constant exposure to stress and adrenaline makes us sick. High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke depression, migraines and even cancer have been linked to having too much unrelieved stress.

Stress inevitably accompanies us to work. You can probably feel it in the car in the morning as you head to work, and you start to imagine what is going to be waiting for you when you arrive. You may think about a problem left over from yesterday that you have to resolve. Maybe there is the stress of the unknown when you aren’t sure what is going to be required of you. You may be stressed about your relationship with a boss or co-worker or a subordinate. This stress can be good. You’re getting amped up for your day just like Aaron Rogers coming off the sideline. But if you don’t have a way to deal with your stress and it builds and builds, it will make you sick.

I want to share with you something that has helped me deal with my own stress for years, Meditation or more specifically Mindfulness Mediation. MM is a simple technique to help you get in touch with what’s going on in your head and your heart. A simple awareness of what’s stressing you will go a long way toward healthy coping and stress relief.

While mediation is practiced in almost all religions, it is not always used for religious purposes. Meditation is being used by more and more people as a means of relaxation, healing, and simple self-awareness. There is nothing weird or New Age about it. Men, women and children of all ages and from all walks of life can benefit from taking some quiet time to bring their lives back into balance.

I’m going to describe for you the simplest form of meditation practice that is accessible to everybody. It’s something you can do anywhere anytime you can grab a few minutes without interruption. And you don’t have to be able to twist your body into a pretzel to participate. Here’s what you do:

1. Find a quiet place where you can sit without interruption for as long as you choose to meditate.
2. Sit in a chair or on a cushion in a comfortable position. Relax your arms comfortably. I like to let my hands rest on my thighs with the palms up.
3. You may sit with your eyes open or shut; most people find it less distracting with eyes closed.
4. Take a deep breath trying to fill your lungs as completely as possible. Exhale and let your shoulder relax as you return to the neutral position. Repeat once or twice.
5. Establish a normal breathing pattern turning your attention to your inbreath and outbreath. You may want to say to yourself, “breathing in – breathing out” as you breathe.
6. Allow your body to relax while you continue your rhythmic breathing.
7. As you sit, all kinds of thoughts will emerge. You may think about something important you should be doing. Your mind may go back to something unpleasant that happened yesterday. This is normal. Don’t try to push the thoughts away. Acknowledge them and let them pass through your mind. Each time a thought passes return your awareness to your breath, “breathing in – breathing out.” Do not be discouraged if your mind will not quiet. It will improve with practice.
8. I recommend starting with short periods of sitting. Five minutes is reasonable at first. Working up to about 20 minutes is preferable. You may get the point that you don’t want to stop after an hour. You can either set a timer or alarm or just end when it feels right.
9. At the end of your allotted time, repeat the deep breathing exercise you started with. Sit quietly for a few minutes before resuming normal activity.
10. You can meditate at any time, but the first thing in the morning and before going to bed at night are good times. You can also try to grab a few minutes at lunch or other free time during the day.

There you have it. Give it a try. You can also consult books or go on-line for other ways to meditate. You may want to join a group meditation program or yoga class if you don’t care for the solitude.
Relax and be well.

How Should I Pray?

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From Matthew 6

Jesus said: Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come.
    Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread.
 
    And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 
    And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

I don’t know a lot of things for certain, but this I do know, there is nothing more important to our spiritual health than praying regularly.  Jesus doesn’t say “if” you pray; he says “when” you pray.  I have learned from experience that when I don’t pray regularly, and there have been many times, that it is a sign that something isn’t right in my life.  I’m either neglecting something or more likely avoiding something.  When we don’t pray our life isn’t hitting on all cylinders.

Prayer takes a lot of different forms, but we are blessed with an instruction manual.  Jesus taught his disciples how to pray.  It’s interesting that his closest followers needed to ask how to pray.  I guess we shouldn’t feel bad if we need to ask too. This is only one type of prayer; but it’s a good place for all of us to start.  It’s kind of Prayer 101. Here are some of the bullet points.

1) Take time for private prayer.  It’s good to pray in public.  We pray with people who are hurting.  We pray before meals or even at the beginning of important meetings. We pray in church.  And it’s good to pray informally like a prayer you say under your breath when you’re facing something difficult during the day at work.  But the center of prayer life that Jesus modeled is private prayer.  Often in the Bible he goes off by himself to pray.  Here he specifically says, “Go in your room and shut the door.”

This tells us something important about prayer – it is a one on one conversation with God.  That’s why it is best done shut away from all of distractions of life.  If we listen closely, during this internal and deeply personal conversation God speaks to us in sometimes subtle and sometimes very dramatic ways. As Paul put it so beautifully, God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit “with sighs too deep for words.”  Don’t expect God to give you earthshaking advice for the day every time you pray – but he might.

2) Glorify God in your prayer.  Hallowed be your name.  Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done.  These are powerful words that acknowledge our dependence upon God in everything.  We are saying that we’re not going to fight God’s will.  We want God to fully come into the world and establish his will.  If God’s will truly ruled the world, we wouldn’t witness the horrors of war.  If God’s will truly ruled in our personal lives, a lot of our self-imposed problems wouldn’t exist.

3) Don’t be afraid to ask.  Give us this day our daily bread. God intends for our needs to be fulfilled and not just the material ones.  I’ve heard people say, “God won’t provide for my family.  I do.”  Point well taken.  We work hard for our daily bread.  But when we ask God to provide for us we are admitting that it is God who gives us the strength and the skills to do our work.  In prayer God can provide guidance and strength to continue.

Certainly, don’t be afraid to ask God for help or healing.  I personally have a lot of people in my life struggling with cancer right now.  I know that those who pray find strength in their private conversations with God.  Even when healing doesn’t come the way they want it to, that personal conversation helps get them through, once again, with sighs to deep for words.

4) Confess.  We all fall short.  We all mess up.  We all feel guilty about somethings.  In ways big and small we aren’t what God would have us be.  Remember, you’re alone with God in your room.  Now’s your chance to talk about it with the One who wants to forgive you.  Confess to God and God will show you the way to change your ways.  While God is forgiving you, he will also open your heart to forgive others who have hurt you.

5) Protect me. Jesus ends his prayer instruction with an important request.  Life is hard.    God, protect me from the evil one.  God protect me from all of the things that are out to get me.  Some of those things are in me.  Protect me from my addictions.  Protect me not only from those who would hurt me, but protect me from myself.  Make my heart pure.  Make me be holy as you are holy. Protect me.

As you can see, this is a big agenda for prayer. And these are only the bullet points. You and God have a lot to talk about.  Take some time today.  Go in your room.  Close the door.  And pray. Pray. Pray.

Amen.

Pastor Jim Melvin